Comment - Rishabh Pant
Rishabh Pant (right) with a companion at Wembley for the England-Germany match of Euro 2020. Image Credit: Twitter

It’s not easy to be in Rishabh Pant’s shoes these days. Yes, he is young, rich and easily the next big thing in Indian cricket - but is not quite entitled to join a handful of friends to turn up at the Wembley Stadium for an almost lifetime experience of watching a England-Germany match of the Euro 2020 which finished last Sunday.

While it’s impossible to draw a conclusion if the wicketkeeper-batsman had contacted the virus there, common wisdom will certainly point a finger at Pant as he, along with his companions, were without masks in a full house stadium on June 29 and the BCCI version of him testing positive came on July 8. The common perception is it takes about a week for the virus to manifest itself - though Pant is reported to be asymptomatic - and should be in a position to join the squad after completing his 10-day isolation period and two negative RT-PCR tests.

While there is still about two and-a-half weeks left for the first Test to begin against England, speculation is already rife if the Indian team management will have to make do with KL Rahul in the wicketkeeper-batsman’s role should Pant and Wriddhiman Saha - the other wicketkeeper in the squad - fail to recover in time.

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Saha, not known for any so-called transgression, has been put on isolation as a precautionary measure as he had been in close contact with Dayanand Garani - the throwdown specialist of the team - along with bowling coach Bharath Arun and standbye opener Abhimanyu Easwaran. 

The moot point is: was Pant really at fault in being seen without a mask at the football stadium or it’s once again the perception about him being a carefree character which is making him the fall guy? The UK government had, after due diligence, relaxed certain Covid norms recently and allowed crowd in sporting venues - which saw the Wembley at full capacity during the semi-final and final alongwith the Wimbledon. Members of the Indian team, along with those of their family, had meanwhile received the second vaccination during their stay in England and were understandably under no obligation to wear masks.

Pant, very much like the rest of the squad, was on a three-week vacation after the World Test Championship (WTC) Final ended on June 22 and the team members had gone their own way for a welcome break from the tiresome Bio Bubble life which they had been subjected to for the last one and-a-half years. Ravi Ashwin, a senior member of the team, had posted a photo of him at the All England Club without a mask - so was Ravi Shastri, the Indian team's head coach, who was at the Centre Court for the men’s final.

The Indian cricket board has, quite prudently, decided against cracking the whip - but have set the guidelines in place for the rest of the tour in a carefully worded letter last week. Fair enough, but the dismantling of the Bubble, albeit much needed, seems to have come with a price to pay!